8 Types of Rest Highly Sensitives May Not Know They Need

As burnout rates continue to rise, many of us are grappling with quiet quitting, quiet firing, compassion fatigue, and burnout, common symptoms of our fast-paced, demanding lives.

Many of us were brought up to believe we need to push ourselves to work long, unbroken hours because it’s the only and best way to be productive, but science tells us the opposite is true.

Extended work hours lead to stress and burnout, which can result in disengagement, poorer job performance, and a lack of innovative problem-solving.

Rest is not laziness but a crucial element in the recipe for a better, more fulfilling life.

By understanding and integrating the various forms of rest into our lives, we shield ourselves from burnout and take charge of our well-being and productivity.

This empowering knowledge enables us to navigate our lives with a newfound sense of control and confidence.

Highly Sensitive individuals, often called HSPs, are more likely to experience burnout because they pick up more emotional and sensory information daily.

They feel others’ emotions more intensely, pay close attention to social cues and environmental details others often miss, and can tend to have more of a hard time saying no due to high empathy.

These eight types of rest are a roadmap to understanding and supporting your unique needs as a Highly Sensitive individual.

They’re essential for working well and intelligently, especially for highly sensitive individuals, and they provide a framework for self-care and well-being.

Recognizing and addressing your individual rest needs is not just crucial; it’s a priority in prioritizing your well-being and feeling cared for.

 

1. Physical rest

Things like sleep, relaxation, and napping fall under passive physical rest.

Active physical rest is about engaging in light, stimulating activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation.

These could include yoga, stretching, deep breathing exercises, taking a purposely slow walk, or simply lying still for a while.

Other activities like swimming, gentle cycling, or even gardening can also be beneficial for active physical rest.

When I first started practising Slow Walking, it felt weird, like I was out of sync with the world around me, and, yes, a guilty feeling lingered afterwards.

With consistent practice though, I began to notice a shift. I felt more at ease, more attuned to my surroundings, and more receptive to new perspectives.

Now, I experience these moments as wonderful, guilty pleasures without the guilt.

 

2. Mental rest

Highly Sensitives can struggle with turning their brains off. Overthinking. Especially when their head hits the pillow. If this happens, you may have a mental rest deficiency when your sleep is helpful but doesn’t feel refreshing enough.

So what do we do?

Many of us turn to a cup of joe, but while relying on coffee to get you through the day might work short term, in the long run, it’s creating a breeding ground for racing thoughts, worries, or mental processing.

A great way to break the habit of overthinking is to take short breaks throughout your day. You can also try laughter yoga, sing your latest favourite song, or play with a pet.

When taking your short break, train yourself to observe your thoughts and notice the emotion(s) you’re associating with them. Allow yourself to observe without trying to control these thoughts.  

Another great tool is journaling before bedtime. Dumping thoughts and feelings on paper will help clear them from your mind before settling in for a restorative sleep.

 

3. Sensory rest

We live in a world of constant stimulation: screens, conversations, sounds, lights, music, pets, children, etc.

One solution would be to use a Sensory Deprivation Tank. It could be more economical for most of us. I have yet to try one, but it’s on my bucket list.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t create intentional moments of sensory deprivation to help me recharge.

This might involve turning off all electronic devices, finding a quiet space, or even using earplugs or an eye mask to block out external stimuli.

You could use the exercise sheets in Level 1 of the HSP World Mastery Program, a comprehensive program designed specifically for Highly Sensitive individuals.

This program is aimed at helping HSPs understand and manage their unique traits, including their rest needs. The exercises in Level 1 focus on each of your senses and can be a helpful tool for practicing sensory rest and emotional self-awareness before bed.

 

4. Emotional rest

Emotional rest allows us to be authentic. If someone asks you how you’re doing after recognizing that you look upset and you respond with, “Fine,” this suppression of emotions places added internal pressure on you.

Instead, we can allow ourselves to be authentic, stating, ‘I’m actually really frustrated about (fill in the blank).’ This release and authenticity allow our emotional circuit to feel more rested.

Being authentic might also mean setting boundaries, expressing our needs, or asking for help.

Setting boundaries can be empowering, giving you a sense of control and confidence in your relationships.

If you need emotional rest, you probably have a social rest deficit, too. Recognizing this deficit can be enlightening, helping you become more aware of your social rest needs.

To experience more social rest, it’s essential to do a ‘relationship litmus test.’ This means evaluating which relationships in our lives have a pattern of giving back to us and which ones take from us.

It’s about noticing whether your relationships are mutually beneficial or if you’re constantly giving without receiving in return.

For example, if you find yourself always being the one to initiate plans or offer support, it might be a sign that you need to re-evaluate the balance in that relationship.

To experience more social rest, surround yourself with positive and supportive people.

Even if your interactions must occur virtually, you can engage more fully in them by turning on your camera and focusing on who you’re speaking with.

Now let’s look at another individual — the friend everyone thinks is the nicest person they’ve ever met. It’s the person everyone depends on, the one you call if you need a favour because even if they don’t want to do it, you know they’ll give you a reluctant “yes” rather than a truthful “no.” But when this person is alone, they feel unappreciated and like others are taking advantage of them.

This person requires emotional rest, which means having the time and space to freely express your feelings and cut back on people pleasing.

Emotional rest also requires the courage to be authentic. An emotionally rested person can answer “How are you today?” with a truthful “I’m not okay” — and then share some hard things that otherwise go unsaid. Of course, we should be mindful of who we’re sharing this information with.

 

5. Social rest

Understanding whether you are an introvert or an extrovert is essential.

Do you gain energy from others or feel drained after spending time with them? Understanding our “social battery” limits can help us realize when to recharge.

This is an essential conversation with those in your inner circle, as people have different thresholds of sociability. One partner may be ready to leave the party three hours in, while the second partner is just getting started.

 

6. Creative rest

Creative rest is an absolute must. How often do we struggle with writer’s block, creative fatigue, or burnout from brainstorming or problem-solving?

One way to achieve creative rest is to surround yourself with inspiration while simultaneously taking the pressure off having to “do” something with it.

For example, being in nature and simply allowing yourself to feel. Creative rest can also look like stepping away from a problem or project to enable your brain to recharge without pressure.

I like combining both by trying a new art type while out in nature. It allows me to be a novice and enjoy something different while enjoying the beauty around me.

 

7. Spiritual rest

Our body, mind and soul may crave spiritual rest.

Spiritual rest means connecting more deeply with something greater than ourselves, where we feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose.

This can mean adding prayer or meditation to our lives.

Since Highly Sensitives have a high degree of empathy, they can also experience emotional pain to a higher degree. Of course, there’s no way to measure this, but it’s great to know we can use this helpful tool by creating the habit of mindful meditation.

I recently heard an interesting perspective from The Contemplative Science Podcast: Pain Re-Conceptualized with Alex Jinich, who states that mindful meditation dampens the experience of pain.

Depending on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert (or somewhere in between), you can also find a sense of community through groups or organizations that create acceptance and intention. This can be through a volunteer program, community outreach, or even nature retreats.

You may find some of the things we chat about here helpful: The HSP World Podcast Ep. 44: Spiritual Self-Care Strategies for Highly Sensitives – HSP World

 

8. Biological rest

Finally, biological rest is giving your whole internal body a rest.

How do we do this? We eat less processed, junk, and high-fat/high-sugar foods. These foods are hard for our bodies to digest. They taste great, but at a cost—the energy it takes to digest them makes us tired.

Try eating fresh fruit or vegetables instead and see if your energy levels rise. Healthy foods are easy to digest and give us energizing stress protection.

Further, being mindful of caffeine consumption to give our adrenals rest is equally as important.

To increase our energy levels, we are responsible for including each of these rests in our lives by examining and re-examining our lifestyles.

Some rests may be easier to include in our day than others, but the important thing is we begin to refuel and recharge our bodies and minds in as many ways as possible.

The research points to the importance of rest in our fast-paced lives. While our culture may be pushing us toward working overtime 24/7, it’s clearly not helping us be more productive or creatively solve our problems.

But when we treat rest as work’s equal partner, recognizing it as a playground for the creative mind and a springboard for new ideas, and learn ways to take rest more effectively, we elevate it into something valuable that can help calm our days, organize our lives, give us more time, and help us achieve more while working less.

Rest is not laziness. It’s the key to a better life.

Is there a type of rest you feel drawn to? It might be the type of rest you need.

Rayne is one of the Content Creators for HSP World. She's a curious traveler, yup an HSS too, who loves reading, writing, spending time outdoors, and playing in new projects.

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